A report sponsored by the Mississippi Enterprise for Technology (MSET) and the Marine Technology Society (MTS) documents a strong Blue Economy in the State of Mississippi. After Dr. Judith Kildow’s work at the National Ocean Economics Program, the “Blue Economy” refers to a wide range of economic activity based on oceans, seas, harbors, ports, and coastal zones. It is a hot topic and was a primary focus of the recent conference, “6th Annual Blue Tech and Blue Economy Summit”, with keynote speaker, Dr. Holly Bamford, Acting Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management at NOAA. The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System is a co-sponsor of the conference.

In Mississippi, the MSET and the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), both GCOOS-RA members, and the local section of MTS, partnered to conduct a study of the maritime industry cluster along the MS Gulf coast. MSET and MTS requested that students in the USM Masters of Economic Development program conduct a study of the maritime industry cluster for the MS Gulf Coast as a capstone project. Ashley Edwards and Susie Veglia, Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission and students in the program, conducted the study – Mississippi’s Blue Economy: An Analysis of Mississippi’s Maritime Commerce with fellow student Kevin Buckley. Assistance was given from USM, MSET and the San Diego Maritime Alliance.

Edwards, Veglia, and Buckley found that the MS Blue Economy is even stronger than they expected and that it dominates the MS economy in general. The team divided the Blue Economy into three categories:

  • Traditional, purely maritime industries, such as shipbuilding and fishing;
  • Industries whose activities include both maritime and non-maritime activities, such as construction; and
  • Maritime technology companies or Blue Tech companies.

The team found that the three Mississippi coastal counties have a total workforce of 143,873, and the decipherable maritime industries account for 31,828 of those jobs or 22% of the workforce. Analyses of existing economic data reveal the additional employment impacted by the maritime industries could be as high as 51,031 or 35% of the entire coastal workforce. The team also found that MS has an under-employed workforce and many training resources in the State, which offer great potential for further economic growth.

The team noted that the MS Blue Economy impact is likely even greater than their results suggest because they relied on secondary industry data classified according to the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, which do not include many direct codes for marine industries. The team suggested that this lack of classification creates a likely underestimate of the impact of the Blue Economy in MS and that the codes should be revised to permit a more accurate assessment of blue economies’ impacts.

Figure 1.  The numbers and trends of traditional maritime industry jobs in MS based on NAICS information in Edwards, Veglia and Buckley’s report. Of particular interest is the zero reporting of jobs in the fishing industries, for which the coast is known, and which consists of many small proprietors whose data are not available through unemployment reporting from which NAICS data is secured.

Figure 1. The numbers and trends of traditional maritime industry jobs in MS based on NAICS information in Edwards, Veglia and Buckley’s report. Of particular interest is the zero reporting of jobs in the fishing industries, for which the coast is known, and which consists of many small proprietors whose data are not available through unemployment reporting from which NAICS data is secured.

The team also recommended that in order to fully realize the potential of Mississippi’s maritime economic future, leaders from business, government, and academia should consider adopting a common strategy that encourages collaboration, coalition building and ultimately develops synergistic partnerships that will move the state’s maritime economy forward into the 21st century. The team included local, state, and national policy recommendations, as well as a “start up guide” for a marine industries science and technology cluster analysis.

Based on the study’s impressive findings, the MSET applied for, and was awarded, a competitive Small Business Administration grant to accelerate a Marine Industries Science and Technology (MIST) cluster. The MIST will focus on the Stennis Space Center’s ecosystem of world class marine technology research, the highest concentration of oceanographers in the world, and a broad consortium of federal and state partners to provide targeted support for the creation and growth of small businesses involved in the “blue technology”.

“This study confirms the expanse of marine science and technology focused organizations along the Mississippi and Gulf coast,” stated Laurie Jugan of both the MSET and MTS, who served as a background point-of-contact on the USM study. “Until now, there was no way to quantify the importance of this industry sector in our area. With the USM study, we now have a place to start.”

In addition to the implementation of the MIST grant, Edwards, Veglia, and Buckley note that a second phase of research is needed to complete a full blown cluster study in MS, similar to the study conducted by the San Diego Maritime Alliance, wherein primary data was derived from surveys, interviews and focus groups. Funding is needed to collect additional primary data, as well as conduct telephone surveys, industry polls, focus groups, and individual interviews.

For More Information:
Contact Susie Veglia at the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission sveglia@hcphc.ms.

Relevant Links:
Mississippi Enterprise for Technology and Marine Industries S&T Cluster – http://www.mset.org/
USM Economic Development capstone project summary – http://www.usm.edu/trent-lott-national-center/students-conduct-analysis-mss-blue-economy
Full Report – http://tinyurl.com/MSBlueEconomy
Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission – http://www.hcphc.ms/home/
6th Annual Blue Tech and Blue Economy Summit – http://themaritimealliance.org/2014/07/6th-annual-bluetech-summit/